How I Really Feel About Mentorship
Last year, I typed “top women in Hollywood” into the internet.
A list came up of the 100 most influential women in Tinseltown. I was unemployed, sitting at a coffee shop on a Wednesday afternoon, and had promised myself that I would not go home until I had emailed everyone on that list. I scoured the internet for email addresses and formats through what can only be seen as a huge invasion of privacy. I was proud of myself for my detective work and went ahead and titled my subject line for every message, “Millennial Seeks Mentorship.”
I crafted a self-pitch, a narrative, and a plea for mentorship – not because I was trying to “make it” or “break through” – I was just desperate to hear from these women what they thought it took to be successful. I assumed that they would have a poetic gem of career or life wisdom to impart to me that would align with my off-the-beaten-path nature, banking on that uncovered diamond of truth being the MacGuffin for my self-actualization.
Out of 100 emails, I got four responses:
- A cease and desist*
- A cease and desist*
- Live body, who told me to stop using the word Millennial so much and that she didn’t have time to mentor me.**
- Live body, who was intrigued, but wanted to know what I was actually asking for.
*Bad news: even a resume counts as unsolicited material
**Don’t worry, she wished me good luck
My breath was stolen by bold emails (even the ones that were from MAILER DAEMON). I knew the story I would tell my future kids: “Mommy got to where she was because she cold-emailed powerful people.”
Before we get too carried away thinking that this all worked out in my favor, I’m going to say something that no one wants to hear:
I think mentorship is a scam.
Now, I’m not discounting the benefits of having someone with more experience take interest in a young graduate and investing in their professional growth, but let me get back to my bold email from the live body who wanted to know more.
After almost a year of back-and-forths and follow-ups, where I incessantly requested a face-to-face meeting, I finally got a five-minute phone call during the middle of an after-work workout one Tuesday evening.
When the pleasantries had passed, the live body asked me, “Annie, what are you asking for? What do you want?”
The infantilization of the Millennial generation has instilled within us a sense of forever adolescence and, what feels like, a purgatorial life sentence to never own anything (including our own businesses) and therefore incapable of achieving adulthood (on our own, at least).
I told her that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew my strengths and wanted to find an opportunity that would get me closer to becoming the person I’m meant to become.
In this moment, I was hoping she was going to take a hammer to my lack of clarity and use her experience and sage advice to synthesize my nebulous response into a direct path.
Instead, she alerted me to Indeed.com and suggested I consider being a P.A. And with that, she was at her next meeting and had to go. She “wished she could be of more help,” and I went inside to finish my third plank.
It took me a couple of days to overcome the lack of climax that exchange gave me – especially after a year of professional foreplay.
I realized that it wasn’t this woman who came up short, it was me.
Millennials are taught to look for mentorship in their jobs because we’re told that without mentors, we won’t be able to make it onto the Forbes 30-Under-30 list, or we somehow won’t be able to bypass all the steps necessary to make it to a VP level by age 27.
There’s a mad dash to get to complete success before 30 – something for which I largely blame the digital age. The infantilization of the Millennial generation has instilled within us a sense of forever adolescence and, what feels like, a purgatorial life sentence to never own anything (including our own businesses) and therefore incapable of achieving adulthood (on our own, at least).
So how does this tie into mentorship? Well, I find that the Millennial version of seeking mentorship is by viewing one’s self as incomplete, hoping that someone else will carry them the rest of the way to stock market success. Therefore, the message we keep telling ourselves and each other is:
Without someone taking a special interest in you during your career, you’re unlikely to move forward.
I call bullshit on this!
There is a risk in including someone else who has been falsely idolized for their financial or public success. This dynamic engenders a deep sense of self-doubt and lack of trust in the decisions one has made to get themselves to where they are, however incomplete it might feel.
I believe that seeking out mentors is a reciprocal process of objectification. On an existential level, it sets up a dark power dynamic, one not so dissimilar to dating, where you present yourself as somehow less capable or unknowing, or worse, seeking for someone to tell you more about yourself than you possibly can.
In therapy, the word “projection” comes up a lot when trying to compartmentalize where one’s feelings are coming from; is it from you? Or are you just reflecting the feelings of another onto something that should come from you?
With something as deeply personal and profound as a career path or – to add higher stakes to the game – a purpose, there is a risk in including someone else who has been falsely idolized for their financial or public success. This dynamic engenders a deep sense of self-doubt and lack of trust in the decisions one has made to get themselves to where they are, however incomplete it might feel.
I had a tarot card reader once tell me, “You already have the answers you need.” Although it sounds like something you can find on Pinterest, it’s a phrase I’ve had to repeat over and over again throughout my career journey thus far. I’m learning that success isn’t about looking ahead to someone else to help you understand your present situation, but rather it’s about believing that whatever you’re doing is what you need to be doing in the current moment. You may not find mentorship in other people, but it’s worth remembering that you can be your own guiding light.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.